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Foreign Car Repair

Foreign car repair standards sometimes differ from those employed for domestic models.

Foreign car repair can require computer diagnostic training. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Foreign car repair can require computer diagnostic training.

Foreign Car Repair

Drivers often get price shock when paying for foreign car repair because the parts cost more than parts for American made cars. Foreign cars include all Japanese cars, such as Toyota and Mitsubishi, but also BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Porsche, Volvo, Jaguar and Audi. While a dealership will usually have mechanics who specialize in foreign car repair, drivers who buy a foreign car far from his or her hometown, may have trouble finding a mechanic capable of working on a foreign vehicle. Also, there are fewer online manuals and books that help amateur mechanics fix things in their driveway, unlike the manuals available for American made cars.

Finding a Foreign Car Repair Shop

When dealing with foreign cars, a one-size-fits-all type of mechanics shop probably won't work. One way to determine if a repair shop can provide the right type of service is to check the name. Specialty shops usually advertise that they work with foreign vehicles, and the types of vehicles are usually mentioned on the sign or in the company's advertisement. For example, Boyles Foreign Car Repair lets drivers know that the repair shop specializes in foreign vehicles. Another key is the company's advertisement, which states that they specifically are specialists in Volvo, BMW and Mercedes.

Drivers living in a small town or those who drove a far distance to buy a foreign car may have a hard time finding a local foreign repair specialist, should a problem arise. Towns with no foreign car dealerships don't usually have a large number of mechanics who specialize in foreign repair. The International Automotive Technicians Network lets drivers perform a search for a certified mechanic in any zip code. This service is useful for any having trouble finding a foreign repair shop.

What to Look for in a Foreign Repair Shop

Once a driver finds a shop, its important that the mechanics have certification. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, commonly referred to as ASE, is the certifying agency in the U.S. Mechanics certified by ASE have proven work experience and passed automotive tests. ASE also requires mechanics to retest after five years.

While ASE certification is important, using a mechanic certified in foreign repair is even more important. Foreign cars have engines and electronics that differ greatly from American-made cars. While an ASE certified mechanic has experience and credentials, if he or she has never worked on a Ferrari or a Porsche, their credentials won't help them fix the car. Check with the mechanic to see if they have credentials from a school like Universal Technical Institute (UTI). UTI is the leading school for foreign automotive certification. They currently offer certification for these makes:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Buell
  • Cummins
  • Daimler trucks
  • Honda
  • Kawasaki
  • Mercedes Benz
  • Nissan
  • Porsche
  • Suzuki
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo
  • Yamaha

If the repairs needed are due to a collision, it's important that the collision repair specialists understand foreign cars, too. Like mechanics, collision repair specialists can earn certification. A collision specialist has more in-depth knowledge about framework, welding, painting and electrical work. A driver should check that the repair specialist has some form of training in foreign repair.

Foreign Car Parts

Another problem with foreign car repair is the amount of time it may take a shop to receive an ordered part. If the repair requires extensive work and the parts aren't stocked at the shop, the mechanic will need to order the parts. Sometimes, mechanics may need to order a part from overseas. In addition, if the car isn't in driving condition, then the driver will end up needing to rent a car until the part arrives and the mechanic fixes it. One option to avoid the long wait is agreeing to accept used parts or aftermarket parts. Many shops like to note that they use original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. However, drivers willing to accept aftermarket parts, which are parts designed to fit and work as well as OEM parts but made by another manufacturer, may have less of a wait time.

Foreign car parts also have a reputation of being extremely expensive. With the boom of online retail sales, many previous hard to find parts are now available online. Drivers can use these online services to price the cost of a needed part, or even purchase the part themselves and then give it to the mechanic. That cuts out the intermediary costs of the mechanic charging to order it, and the driver will save money because the mechanic cant markup the price.

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